As the iconic piano riff began to play, my mom, grandma and I looked at each other with excited grins. With the lights of metropolitan Denver twinkling over the stage, Dolly Parton belted out “9 to 5.” Seeing Parton perform the song alongside my mom, who worked her way through college as a single mother and her mother, who worked at Wendy’s for decades until retiring, made the song’s anti-corporate, pro-woman message hit even harder. We danced and sang along with the thousands of other people nestled between the stunning megaliths of Red Rocks. A lifelong memory, it wouldn’t be the only one set to Parton’s underdog anthem.
After waiting for four hours in Detroit’s Eastern Market, the same piano riff blared throughout the room. Like in Colorado, the notes brought an ecstatic smile to my face as presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., ran onto the stage. The room erupted in screams as she gave the woman who introduced her, state Sen. Stephanie Chang, D-Detroit, a typical, big Warren hug. After a year of supporting and campaigning for her, I couldn’t believe my political icon was right in front of me. Attacking corruption and corporate greed with the fervor and agility only she has, Parton’s jingle felt tailor-made for Warren’s speech.
The overflowing excitement I felt from the rally hadn’t dissipated by the time Super Tuesday results trickled in later that night. Eventually, though, the excitement began to sour. My mother, who had registered to vote after attending a Warren rally in Denver, called me to vent her frustration with a Democratic Party that was readily denying a woman nominee. While I tried my best to cultivate optimism with California’s vote yet to be counted, a few hours later I had joined her in her anger.
Two days later, Warren suspended her campaign for president, narrowing the field down to two very old and very white men, former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. Women across the country expressed their disappointment. Rachel Maddow told Warren that her leaving the race felt like a “death kneel” to see a female president in her lifetime while U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., complained about being the most powerful woman in the U.S. government. I also couldn’t help but feel my once overwhelming excitement for the primary fall to the wayside. Beginning as the most diverse field in either party’s history, I couldn’t believe that in Tuesday’s Democratic primary I was being forced to vote for a white dude. As a liberal, it’s no surprise that I voted for Sanders, but unlike many of my classmates, I did so without any enthusiasm. While I wish I could see Sanders as a liberal beacon of hope, I can’t help but see his potential presidency as a looming disappointment.
Known for his crotchetiness, Sanders’s temper, exhibited by his constant yelling and hatred of criticism, is only matched by Biden’s, who famously called a young woman a “lying dog-faced pony soldier” for asking a question. Compared to ex-candidates in the race whose communication with voters encouraged productive dialogue, these two despise the questioning of them or their plans. With the most ambitious left-wing platform in modern history, this will likely come back to haunt Sanders’s presidency.
A politician for almost his entire adult life, Sanders is beloved for his admirable consistency on the issues that are now the centerpieces of his campaign. Sanders’ supporters tout his decades-long unwavering stances as proof he won’t flip-flop as president. In order to fulfill his promises, however, Sanders plans to do just that: Changing his views on the issue of executive power, a philosophy that he opposed as a congressman. His team has already drafted dozens of executive orders for his presidency to bypass Congress on issues like immigration reform, the environment and legalizing marijuana. While this proves he plans to make good on his promises, it’s a bad way to go about doing so.
Executive orders, while effective at enacting short-term changes during a president’s administration, will fail to solve the problems they address. Easily repealed by future presidents, any structural change, which most of his plans require, must be accomplished through the creation of permanent solutions codified by law. President Donald Trump’s repealing of the Obama administration’s executive order that created Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), leaving the futures of thousands of “dreamers” in limbo, exemplifies why unilateral executive action is a sub-par strategy. This is one reason his presidency won’t be the liberal heyday his supporters anticipate. While it's reasonable to argue executive orders are a necessary evil to bypass Mitch McConnell’s lame-duck Senate, Bernie’s path to the nomination has entailed burning more than just Republican bridges.
While Sanders has publicly denounced the toxic “Bernie Bro” culture that is known for sexist and sometimes dangerous attacks on fellow Democrats, his actions don’t align with his words. Sanders, as well as other top officials in his campaign, have all sat down for interviews with the pro-Sanders podcast “Chapo Trap House.” Calling themselves part of the “dirtbag left,” the show is infamous for spouting off the same viciously insensitive remarks Sanders claims to denounce. With an agenda that will require at least unity amongst Democrats, Sanders’s unique inability to stop his supporters from attacking strong women like those who raised me was yet another reason I didn’t “feel the Bern” at the ballot box.
I used to tumble out of bed and stumble to the kitchen before class each morning and scroll through my phone’s newsfeed, optimistic that Democrats would not only beat Trump in November but would do so using the same woman-power that won us back the House in 2018. Now, my morning ritual inspires more sadness than hope. I want Bernie’s left-wing revolution to seize the White House, don’t get me wrong, but I’m disappointed the glass ceiling Hillary Clinton began to chip at more than a decade ago still has yet to shatter. While this election may have been heavily influenced by the boogeyman in the White House, hopefully in four years the nominee will be chosen based on their qualifications rather than their gender.